by Suzanne Collins. Scholastic Press, 2005. I was saving this book and the fourth one in the series, Gregor and the Marks of Secret to read this summer. I read the first two, Gregor the Overlander and Gregor and the Prophesy of Bane last year. (Another blogger review.) I really love this series. It is completely captivating. If you are obsessed with Harry Potter this week you ought to love these books as well.
Gregor is a 12 year old New Yorker. He lives in an apartment with his mom, dad, two sisters and grandmother. He travels under the city to have adventures and battles in a whole different civilization filled with nibblers (mice), gnawers (rats), violet eyed humans (living in the City of Regalia), crawlers (cockroaches) and flyers (bats). He takes his two year old sister with him on the adventures. Gregor is such a well drawn character he comes alive. He speaks with a genuine mixture of humor, wit, uncertainty, hope and confusion.
There is a brief mention of him being African American and the books are listed in collections of African American fiction for children, but his race is not apparent in most of the story. I am glad to see a character of color in a story not about race but I wish his ethnicity was a little clearer in these books. There is barely any mention of it at all and it is easy to miss. I didn't notice it at all until another reader pointed it out to me. I think it would be good for young African American readers to know this hero was black. It would be good as well for everyone else reading to see a black kid star in a fantasy adventure. In the interview with Suzanne Collins on her site it is not mentioned at all. If they make it into a movie I wonder who they would cast as Gregor?
In this volume he becomes one of a party on a quest to find the cure to a plague that is decimating all the warmbloods. His closest friends, his partner in the bat world and his mother all become infected wit this horrible and fatal disease so he is desperate to find the cure. As well as seeking the cure for the plague he is discovering his strength and courage as a warrior and exploring the tension between seeking peace, establishing alliances and identifying reasons to go to war. The story has depth and humor. I highly recommend the series for readers between 9 and 12 who love adventure stories.
I finished volume four yesterday and I will write about it tomorrow. Volume five is out now as well and I look forward to reading it as soon as we get it into our library. Jen Robinson has reviewed it here.